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A year in review

This journalist reflects on a year like no other…

If I have ever described a year as being a ‘rollercoaster’ before 2020 and 2021 came along, then I regret it deeply and will be more sparing with the term moving forward. Had I been asked to write a year in review article four weeks ago, I would have hardly been able to contain my uncharacteristic optimism. However, with the UK seemingly running headlong into another lockdown (at the time of writing), my optimism about the market is being coloured by the fact that we are ending 2021 almost exactly the way we started it, namely under increasingly strict (but understandable) COVID conditions. Nevertheless, there has been plenty to be thankful for in 2021 and, all being well (or at least better), even more on the horizon in 2022.

To my mind, the superyacht industry in 2021 has been characterised by two key phenomena, namely the return of events and the booming sales markets. However, it should be noted that I don’t necessarily believe that the former has had a significant impact on the latter.

People are amazingly adaptable and throughout 2020 businesses, individuals and buyers quickly amended their practices to embrace a more digitised working environment. Face-to-face business meetings were confined to the pre-COVID era and the Zoom or Teams meeting rose to prominence. So eager were we to make the best of a resoundingly bad situation, we convinced ourselves that Zoom meetings were perfectly adequate and that unless 100 per cent necessary, face-to-face meetings would take a back seat within the superyacht market of the future. The return of events, however, proved just how wrong we were.

At its heart, the superyacht industry is an incredibly social community. It lives and breathes on personal relationships and mutual love and respect for the industry that we work in. The return of the likes of Monaco Yacht Show, Cannes and The Superyacht Forum Live highlighted the extent to which we had been kidding ourselves about how happy we were with the prominence of digital communication. Under difficult, and at times strained, circumstances, I have never seen a more positive series of events, thanks in large to how relieved people were to be networking again and seeing their friends.

That the sales markets were already in the midst of a booming period of demand and activity created the ideal environment for a joyous return to the events schedule and for The Superyacht Group MYS signalled the first leg of The Superyacht Forum Live Tour, which was subsequently followed by legs in Viareggio, Amsterdam and London, and if anyone remains in doubt of how the industry is performing, the content from the live tours leaves absolutely no doubt as to where the market currently is. In 2022 the Live Tours will be kicking on with Thames, New Forest, Design, Balearic, Pacific, Riviera, Tuscan and TSF tours all in the making, with more potentially to be announced.

As previously implied, 2021 would have had an altogether different feel to it if the new build, brokerage and charter markets had been performing poorly. There have been plenty of theories as to exactly why the sales markets have been booming to the extent that they have. Did lockdowns push people off the fence? Was proof that working from a superyacht is possible enough to convince entrepreneurs that it would not be detrimental to their business aspirations to own a yacht? Have the rich just got a lot wealthier? Do people consider superyachts safe havens? Is it basic consumer confidence? Whatever the reason, people are buying, selling and chartering superyachts, the only present question mark over the market’s performance is whether or not there is the supply to meet the demand moving forward?

All in all, 2021 was a vast improvement on 2020 both in terms of market interaction and market performance. However, while we must assume that the former will continue to improve exponentially, there are question marks over the extent to which the new build market will be able to contend with demand, capacity and rising material costs in the coming years and it is doubtful that the brokerage market will be able to continue at this fierce pace once the best deals have been done and the best superyachts sold. These issues, however, are not short-term and if many of the market’s most astute commentators are to be believed, then 2022 is shaping up to be an absolute corker.

 

Merry Christmas everyone.

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A year in review

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